Roni, Dor, Yuval and Hofni are Israelis who were called for reserve duty when Operation Protective Edge launched. Here are open letters they wrote to Israelife's readers (translated from Hebrew by yours truly.)
A letter written by Roni Kareth (25) who serves as a reservist Officer in the Artillery Corps, currently located in Gaza.
“The moral rises and sinks like ocean waves during a storm. On the one hand, there are the packages we receive from the people of Israel and the major wave of support that make us stronger (not just because of our actual need of the products people send, but because of the love and care the people show us.) On the other hand, the reports on more and more casualties crush the heart and slow its beats. It is too sad, too painful.
How much longer will we be able to hear about soldier being caught unguard by terrorists or being burnt alive, without the ability to help and without being able to stop the tears from pouring down? As the days go by, I have a growing feeling that a long term solution must be found. A stable, creative, true, deep solution that will end this surreal situation. Explosions everywhere, aircrafts circling above. We can’t sleep, we can’t shower, we can’t truly be happy.
Why do we, young people, still kids, need to feel like this? Let’s reflect our solidarity and love to the outside, let’s find a solution through compromise. Let’s show the world that there is no army as moral as us, who can use its sword, but can also hold it down and truly reach out for peace. That way, we will give hope not just to the Palestinians and the people of southern Israel who live under fire for over a decade now, but to the entire human kind. I want to go back home.”
A letter written by Dor Saar (26) who serves as reservists Officer at the Teleprocessing Corps.
“My name is Dor, and I am a 26 year old Officer at the Teleprocessing Corps in the IDF. During Operation Protective Edge I was recruited for 14 days, and last week I was released back home. From now on, what I am about to write is nothing but my personal opinion, which is not very firm, but I still want to share it with you:
After Operation Protective Edge started, the net was swamped by hundreds of thousands of comments from both sides of the conflict. Each commenter came up with the solution he/she thought was the best. I admit – since the beginning of this war until today – I don’t know what the best solution is. I can disqualify a few suggestions, but I am not sure which suggestions to accept. Besides the obvious claim that the situation as is can’t last much longer, and that the constant missile launching on the people of southern Israel is intolerable – I find it very hard to put together a coherent statement.
Even from before the operation, let alone during, I felt deep sorrow for the suffering of the People of Gaza. Let’s face it – killing of innocent people, even if done unintentionally by the IDF in spite of efforts to avoid civilian casualties, is still the killing of innocent people. The other side of the coin is, of course, my inability to find another way to take down Hamas, which clearly insist on dragging the IDF into battles in crowded neighborhoods, as guerilla groups do.
It’s not even a selection between a humanitarian thinking and military strategy, as many think – for isn’t protecting and defending the lives of the citizens of Israel a humanitarian thinking? Politically, I know that the best way is to strive for peace and reconciliation. Who knows? Maybe someday, many years from now, terror organization will also agree that this is the right path to walk in – but in the meantime, I find it clear that sadly, we must fight for our home.
These confusing thoughts that keep running through my mind many of my friends don’t understand. For many, this situation has a clear answer: most of the people lean towards supporting every military action there is, wishing to deepen the operation even more. Some are not even interested in the IDF trying to avoid civilian casualties, and are certain that mass murder in Gaza is the solution. A radical minority turn in a different direction, claiming Israel is committing war crimes in Gaza, and that Israel is solely responsible for the situation in Gaza.
I often wonder why I keep on coming when they ask me for reserve duty. I am not the type of person you’d imagine when thinking of a reservist Officer. I allow myself to say that I do my job in the military very well, without any regrets, while knowing that when there is high-quality connection, it helps improving the performances on the battlefield. Nonetheless, I have zero military discipline, and have no admiration for the army. In my perception, I see the army as a necessary evil. Evil because it is violent, necessary because we can’t live without it.
But when I ask myself who am I serving at the end of the say, the answer is clear – the people of Israel and the region. Israel’s security is important to me, not only in a “rocket threat- free” meaning, but also in its “social strength” meaning. When during this operation people used violence against protesters who only wished to express their thoughts – it hurts me, very much. I insist on every man’s right to express his opinion, unpleasant as it might be for me to hear. The way I see it, freedom of speech is not being measured by opinions I disagree, but can live with, but by the opinions that make me sick. If we start hurting those who make them, we will enter the slippery slope of silencing those we disagree with.
This is why, the day I was called for reserve duty, I found myself wondering why I am here? I am not a great warrior, but when we help our troops with greater connection and communication, we help them protect the people of Israel and help us all live our lives. Not just in the narrow definition of life, but in the broader definition, of rich, cultural, happy life. Thanks to the high-quality connection I provide our troops, I think I contribute my minor contribution to the long-lasting democratic society.
May our fallen soldiers rest in peace, and may every person living in the region, regardless of religion and nationality, know quiet, peaceful days.
I would like to end thie letter with words by Shaul Tchernichovsky
For my soul still yearns for freedom
I’ve not sold it to a calf of gold
For I shall yet have faith in mankind
In its spirit great and bold"
A letter written by Yuval Oz (25) who serves as a reservist Officer in the Armor Corps, currently located near the Gaza border.
"During one of our briefings last week, our commander told us that Hamas is now weak, that its people caved in, that almost all the underground tunnels were destroyed. From what he was saying, it was easy to assume that victory is right around the corner. A few seconds later a "code red" rocket alert siren was heard and we all ran to our tanks to hide.
No one wants to die, especially not from a missile being launched from Gaza. There are no heroism and no bravery in that, just loss. While I was lying near my tank, my hands covering my head and the disgusting smell of a dust-fuel sneaking up to my nose, I pondered about my commander's words. Does this what a real victory look like? Is a country where an entire region has been paralyzed for the past month, whose airport has been shut down for a few days, whose people are afraid to return to their homes because they fear for their lives can truly claim victory?
But if we didn't win, does it mean Hamas won? Probably not. It takes one quick look at the ruins of Gaza to understand that there's no victory there, in spite Hamas' over the top propaganda. Therefore, what we have here are two losers. Two boxers lying in the ring after the final round is over. No one leaves a winner, and I guess we are doomed to be a part of this game forever.
Maybe it is our time to become wiser. Maybe it's time to admit the IDF can't win, not in Gaza, at least. Even the best fighting machine in the world can't stand against the international pressure that does not allow a massive ground operation. The reality here is too explosive, too surreal for a few tanks to change, and maybe the time has come to understand we must make a change.
In all the conversations I had with my reservists friends, most of them have more right-wing opinions than I, we usually come to the conclusion that a long-term solution in Gaza must be financial. This place must thrive, it must be wealthy. Factories need to be built and there should be employment, so that the people here in Gaza will have something to aspire to. With that being said, when I raise the issue of raising the siege, my friend always cringe in their seats and raise their hand with annulment, claiming I don't know what I'm talking about.
Maybe I don't, but maybe we can put some thought into it before completely disqualifying it? Maybe we can try and reach a non-military solution? Maybe it's time to acknowledge that fact our military can only do so much until its effectiveness wears off? Especially in Gaza. From a certain point, for every tunnel we uncover, we pay a price that's too heavy as more soldiers die. For every second we stay inside beyond this point, the international pressure on Israel will become too heavy. Eventually, in Gaza, we can't let the IDF win, mostly because the other side got nothing to lose.
A letter written by Hofni Gartner (27) who serves as a reservist Officer in the Medical Corps, currently located in Tel-HaShomer, Israel.
“When I was first asked to write this segment about how I feel about the current fighting between us and the Palestinians in Gaza I found myself baffled...
It struck me that I truly don’t know what and how to feel. For me and many other Israelis, it's just a fact of life. Every couple of years we get called in by the military to wear green again and to help the efforts to restore peace and quiet back to our families and friends.
The fact that a graduate student that up until three weeks ago was occupied only by his social/carrier/educational life (to be completely honest for the week before it all started I was completely invested in a HUGE macroeconomics exam that I've missed by now) has to, in an instant, put everything aside and take back his former almost forgotten military duties – should be nothing but ridiculous to the westerner side viewer. But for us, that’s life.
For the past three weeks, while in uniform, I tried to catch up for as much as I could with the news. It was important for me to get the feel on the two most major issues as I see it : first, the resilience of the Israeli citizens who are forced to endure a constant state of fear from falling rockets (yes Iron-Dome's 90% accuracy rate is astonishing, but believe me, that 10% chance of getting a rocket falling on you is not a thing you want to have to live with) and at the same time having to see their children, spouses and friends go back to battle. Second, how does the world see us? Are we the ones to wage a “just war,” or are we (again...) scapegoated as war criminals.
As for the first issue, I have to say I'm more than content - the Israeli people show remarkable solidarity and resilience. We are unified behind the goals of these military efforts, which are to demolish the Hamas's capabilities to fire rockets on our cities and destroying the tunnel infrastructure going out of Gaza into Israel. On the second issue I have to say I'm more than disappointed (though not surprised.) It seems like, again, most of the world, though being supportive of our right to defend ourselves from Hamas’ threats, don’t seem to get who are the people we are dealing with and for what lengths we go in order to conduct this battle for the safety of our country as humanely as possible (please note – this conduct of war has it's price. And it's usually paid with the lives of our soldiers).
So, what do I expect from the rest of the world who rushes to judge us as inhumane children killers? That's easy – just please try to understand the context in which things are happening. Ignoring the full picture will make you see things not as they really are, and in this conflict the divide is to a distinct (and in my eyes easy to see) RIGHT and WRONG.
The RIGHT side that pulled out of Gaza in 05', back to the 1967 lines, just for the sake of promoting peace. That chooses to keep a constant flow of supplies to that region, though it knows that some of them would probably be used in order to try and hurt it. A side that warns the enemy before striking (using text messages, phone calls and pamphlets), just to prevent civilian casualties, and opens a field hospital for the injured from the other side.
The other side is the WRONG side, who chooses to use schools and hospitals as its launching pads and military headquarters. That in a cowardly act asks civilians to risk their own lives in order to protect terrorists. A side that time after time votes for inhumane radical militant Islam over the rational desire for prosperity and peace.
For those who question this divide I say – please look at what is happening in other parts of the Arab world. Where there is a radical Islamist movement involved, you will find beheadings and mass killing of innocent people on the despicable charge of them being 'infidels', the trampling of women's rights and death penalties for gays. You can find it now going on in Iraq, Syria, Sudan and the list goes on…including Gaza.
On the other hand, we, the people of Israel, have taken any chance we had to promote lasting peace and prevent war. Whenever we could, we have signed peace treaties- with Egypt and Jordan, and were willing to give territories back to it. Here again we say- we want peace and are willing to pay a considerable price for, but unfortunately not the price the other side want us to pay, which is the full obliteration of the Israeli state from the face of the earth (don't believe me? Read Hamas’ charter). So… as it seems for now the only option we are left with in the wake of this current situation is to fight and win this battle, Making our borders quiet for another few years... And take my word we will.
For the Palestinians, I plea – take the road to peace, take Hamas down and chose others to lead you. Others that would care more about you then about waging a lost 'jihad' against the state of Israel. From the rest of the world, I ask- when coming to judge whether what we do is right, try to understand each side's motives. In our case we do not want war – they do. We do not seek death – but they do. We want to live good and prosperous lives - while they prefer to lose theirs just to have a seat next to 'Allah.' We want to have two states in this land – while they are the ones who want just one.
And to my Jewish brothers and sisters around the world, I say- please help us win the international PR battle. For now the pictures of dead Gazan kids are doing exactly what the Hamas has aimed for them to do when putting those kids in the line of fire. Educate yourself about the conflict: the way the Palestinians have rejected to sign the most generous peace offers that could ever be given; the fact that the Hamas' charter calls for the obliteration of the Jewish state of Israel and its residents; the reality of Hamas using its own civilians as a human shield for his armed terrorists, only to get them killed by Israel who has no other choice but to fight back, and use their sad bloody pictures to win the world's hearts and minds.
With the hope for peace and quiet,